The House And Senate - There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

To the exclusion of just about everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic was front and center on Beacon Hill for the third week in a row. Most legislators and staff are staying away from Beacon Hill and are working from home to comply with social distancing guidelines. The House and Senate held only informal sessions at which there can be no roll calls and it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything. The Democrats and Republicans worked together, as they did last week, and continued to cooperate and approved bills relating to COVID-19. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports on several pieces of legislation relating to the COVID-19.

It’s also an election year so it’s time to take a look at how much money the incumbent senators have raised, spent and have on hand during the first three months of 2020. This week’s report also includes the fundraising numbers for the state’s 38 senators from the latest filing period of January 1 to March 31. The numbers are from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. To get more information on any senator’s fundraising and expenditures, go to www.ocpf.us and click on “Browse registered filers and reports” and then type the name of your senator in the box that says “Filter by name” in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Senators Who Raised The Most Amount Of Money And The Least - The senator who raised the most amount of money is Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) who raised $123,007. Following her are Sens. Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton), $65,590 and Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), $62,902.

The senator who raised the least amount of money is Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) who raised $402. Following her are Sens. John Keenan (D-Quincy), $650 and Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), $979.

Here’s how much local senators raised:

Sen. Julian Cyr $36,711

Senators Who Spent The Most And The Least - The senator who spent the most amount of money is Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston) who spent $57,564. Following him are Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), $42,028 and Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop), $31,345.

The senator who spent the least amount of money is Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Lowell) who spent $1,072. Following him are Sens. John Keenan (D-Quincy), $1,333 and Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), $1,653.

Here’s how much local senators spent:

Sen. Julian Cyr $18,731

Senators Who Have The Most Cash On Hand And The Least - The senator who has the most amount of cash on hand is Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) who has $858,283. Following him are Sens. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), $442,536 and Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), $430,978.

The senator who has the least amount of cash on hand is Sen. John Keenan (D Quincy) who has $8,818. Following him are Sens. Michael Brady (D-Brockton), $22,489 and Edward Kennedy (D-Lowell), $23,918.

Here’s how much cash local senators have on hand:

Sen. Julian Cyr $97,887

Also Up On Beacon Hill

No COVID-19 Liability (S 2635) - The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker legislation that would make health care professionals and health care facilities immune from lawsuits and civil liability for any damages alleged to have been sustained by an act or omission by the health care professional or health care facility in the course of providing health care services during the period of the COVID-19 emergency. The immunity would not apply in instances of gross negligence, recklessness, conduct with an intent to harm or in cases which discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposal was based on a bill filed by Gov. Baker.

Gov. Baker said the legislation would provide our health care workers and facilities with protections from civil liability while they are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I cannot overstate the urgency of enacting this legislation,” Gov. Baker said when he filed the bill back on April 8. “We need to ensure that fear of liability will not prevent the commonwealth and its medical institutions from acting decisively to deliver the kind of medical response we need during this pandemic. I urge your prompt enactment of legislation.”

Vote By Mail (HD 5026 And SD 2912) - Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Adrian Madaro have filed bills to permit voting by mail for all state primaries and general elections. Under the bill, which would be effective beginning with the 2020 election, the secretary of state would send every registered voter affiliated with a party a ballot by mail with a prepaid return envelope 18 days before the Sept. 1 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election. Voters who are unenrolled or independent would have to request a specific party ballot online or by mail at least 35 days before the Sept. 1 primary.

The instructions on how to complete and send in a ballot would be printed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Haitian. The bill still requires that voters have the opportunity to vote in person in their city or town. The measure provides that if the state of emergency declared because of COVID-19 is still in effect, the state must provide personal protective equipment for all poll workers. Another provision makes the November Election Day a legal state holiday except for public employees whose jobs relate to the operation and administration of elections.

“We’re facing a global pandemic that makes traditional in-person voting seriously concerning if not downright dangerous, so we must proactively pursue alternative voting methods,” Sen. Rausch said. “Mail voting already works in Massachusetts; we process thousands of mail-in absentee ballots every election with no issue,” Rep. Madaro said.

Opponents say that voting by mail opens the door to fraud and abuse. President Donald Trump is one of the most vocal opponents of voting by mail. “It shouldn’t be mail-in voting,” Mr. Trump said recently. “It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself. You don’t send it in the mail where people can pick up—all sorts of bad things can happen … by the time it gets in and is tabulated.”

$1,500 Per Month For Some Seniors (HD 4978) - A bill proposed last week would provide monthly cash assistance of $1,500 per month for persons over age 65 who are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance but stopped working as a result of a pre-existing condition placing them in a high-risk category for COVID-19’s most serious symptoms or death.

“Elder Affairs Chair Ruth Balser and I filed [the bill] to provide relief for self-employed and gig economy elders who had the foresight to stop working, possibly weeks before the Massachusetts Stay-At-Home Advisory, because of an underlying condition such as chronic kidney disease or a compromised immune system,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain). “We filed [the bill] before the passage of the federal CARES Act, which expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to include many self-employed workers. We are watching for federal guidance to understand whether gaps in UI coverage remain within this vulnerable demographic. If so, this bill would fill in those gaps for yet uncovered elders.”

Rep. Gonzalez Files Three COVID-19 Proposals - Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield) filed three COVID-19 bills including:

Internet Access (HD 4984) - Ensures that Internet providers serving the state will provide the highest bandwidth possible for residential customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

$15,000 Grant To Micro-Businesses (H 4985) - Provides $15,000 grant subsidy to micro-business owners who have less than five employees and sales from 2018 that did not exceed $200,000. Under the bill, 75 percent of the grants must be used for direct payment to employees’ compensation and 25 percent for small business general operational losses towards goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Churches Online (H 4986) - Establishes up to $10,000 grants for small community churches in the gateway cities of Massachusetts with parishioners of less than 100 members. The funding would be used to establish an online platform in order to conduct and provide services, communication and support to their parishioners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also Up On Beacon Hill

Moratorium On Evictions And Foreclosures (H 4615) - The House and Senate approved a conference committee version and sent to Gov. Baker legislation putting a moratorium on most residential, commercial and nonprofit evictions and foreclosures until 45 days after the end of the state of emergency, or 120 days after passage of this new law, whichever is sooner. The House and Senate had approved different versions of the bill and a conference committee drafted a compromise plan.

The measure allows the governor to postpone the expiration in increments of not more than 90 days. The bill allows for emergency for cause evictions that involve allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that are “detrimental to the health or safety of other residents, health care workers, emergency personnel or the general public.”

Another provision prohibits landlords from charging late fees or sending reports to credit rating agencies as long as a tenant provides notice within 30 days of a late payment that their failure to pay was tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court Reduces The Number Of Signatures Required To Get On The Ballot - On Friday, April 17, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the number of required signatures for all elected offices in the September 1 primary be reduced by 50 percent because of the difficulty and health risks of collecting signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that the number of signatures needed for US senate candidates is reduced from 10,000 to 5,000; congressional candidates from 2,000 to 1,000; governor’s council and some county offices from 1,000 to 500; candidates for the state senate from 300 to 150; and candidates for state representative from 150 to 75.

The ruling also extends the deadline for candidates for state and county offices to submit signatures to local election officials from April 28 until May 5.

Copyright © 2020 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com.

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